Manila Bulletin

Pow­er­ful Chile quake kills at least 5, 1 mil­lion evac­u­ated, tsunami warn­ings is­sued


SAN­TI­AGO (AFP) – A pow­er­ful 8.3-mag­ni­tude earth­quake struck off Chile, killing at least five peo­ple, forc­ing the evac­u­a­tion of one mil­lion and spark­ing warn­ings that tsunami waves could reach as far as Ja­pan.

Build­ings swayed as far away as in Buenos Aires, Ar­gentina. In Chile, peo­ple ran out into the streets in terror.

TV footage showed stores with floors strewn with a mushy mess of bro­ken bot­tles and other spilled mer­chan­dise.

It was the sixth most pow­er­ful quake in the history of quake-prone Chile and the strong­est any­where in the world this year, Deputy In­te­rior Min­is­ter Mah­moud Aleuy said.

Giv­ing the death and evac­u­a­tion toll, Aleuy said 245,000 fam­i­lies were left with­out power.

Cen­tral Choapa province clos­est to the epi­cen­ter was de­clared a catas­tro­phe zone and placed un­der mil­i­tary rule.

The United States Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey (USGS) put the shal­low off­shore quake at a mag­ni­tude of 8.3 and said it hit 228 kilo­me­ters (about 140 miles) north of San­ti­ago, a city of 6.6 mil­lion peo­ple.

“The mo­tion be­gan lightly, then stronger and stronger,” said San­ti­ago res­i­dent Jean­nette Matte.

“We were on the 12th floor and we were very afraid be­cause it was not stop­ping. First it was from side to side, then it was like lit­tle jumps.”

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Jorge Bur­gos said evac­u­a­tion of coastal towns and cities had been or­dered as a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure. Classes were can­celled in coastal ar­eas.

“We know there could be more af­ter­shocks and so we must con­tinue to eval­u­ate the sit­u­a­tion min­uteby-minute,” Bachelet said.

A tsunami warn­ing was ini­tially in place for the whole of Chile and Peru’s Pa­cific coast­line.

Among the dead were a woman in Il­lapel, close to the epi­cen­ter, and an 86-year-old man in San­ti­ago, where there were scenes of pan­de­mo­nium as thou­sands fled sway­ing build­ings.

Hard­est-hit Il­lapel, a coastal city of 30,000, saw its elec­tric­ity fail and sev­eral homes were dam­aged.

In coastal La Ser­ena, in the north of Chile, “peo­ple were run­ning in all di­rec­tions,” said res­i­dent Glo­ria Navarro.

A sim­i­lar fear seized res­i­dents in Ar­gentina.

“We went into a panic and the floor kept mov­ing. We went out into the hall­way and down the stairs,” Celina Atrave, 65, who lives in a 25-story high-rise near down­town Buenos Aires, told AFP.

The quake, which struck at 7:54 p.m. (2254 GMT), hit at a depth of eight kilo­me­ters, USGS said. Seis­mol­o­gists also re­ported mul­ti­ple af­ter­shocks, some of them above 6.0.

The Chilean gov­ern­ment put the main earth­quake at 8.4 on the Richter scale.

The Hawaii-based Pa­cific Tsunami Warn­ing Cen­ter said that “haz­ardous” tsunami waves were pos­si­ble for some parts of Chile’s shore­line, in­clud­ing some three me­ters (10 feet) above the tide level.

Tsunami waves were also pos­si­ble in French Poly­ne­sia, Hawaii and Cal­i­for­nia, of­fi­cials said, as well as smaller waves as far afield as Ja­pan and New Zealand.

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